(Reuters) – As a match, Ghana’s 1-0 win over Serbia was nothing special but as an occasion it will be recalled as long as stories of the first African World Cup are told.
Ghana, the first African colony to become an independent nation in 1957 as the “winds of change” began to blow away the colonial era on the continent, fittingly became the first African winners of the 2010 tournament.
Hosts South Africa came close to that honor in the opening match against Mexico on Friday and although they were denied a win by a late Mexican equalizer, they had already secured a symbolic victory by hosting the event.
The thousands of home fans in the crowd did not begrudge Ghana their honor though — Africans supporting Africans, the 2,800 miles between Ghana’s capital Accra and Pretoria seemingly reduced to the length of a goal kick.
The heaving, pulsating, vuvuzela-blowing, mass got totally behind Ghana who picked up three points when Asamoah Gyan sent Vladimir Stojkovic the wrong way with an 85th minute penalty, awarded after Zdravko Kuzmanovic needlessly handled in the box.
Serbia, reaching a national milestone of their own by competing in the World Cup as an independent nation for the first time after splitting from Montenegro after the 2006 World Cup, had been reduced to 10 men by then after Aleksandar Lukovic was red carded in the 74th minute for a second yellow card.
They had had several chances of their own to win the game, the best falling to Milos Krasic after 79 minutes whose less than perfect left-foot shot was parried away superbly by Richard Kingson, oddly a goalkeeping team mate of Serbia’s keeper Stojkovic at English Premier League club Wigan Athletic.
The two club mates had greeted each other warmly before the game, but Kingson was the one chaired off the field by his team mates at the end — although he was not the only Ghanaian hero.
John Pantsil, who ran round the field at the end with a giant Ghana flag, and Kevin-Prince Boateng, worked tirelessly in setting up attacks in a match that certainly ebbed and flowed — but with little end product from either team.
Ghana, whose juniors are the reigning Under-20 World Cup holders, and who also lost in the final of the African Nations Cup in January, were more than a match for their opponents, with some sweet flowing moves.
But they need to find a finish to their approach work if they are to advance under their Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac.
Ghana were the fourth African team to play in the tournament following South Africa’s draw with Mexico, Nigeria’s loss to Argentina, and Algeria’s defeat to Slovenia.
Cameroon enter the action on Monday when they play Japan and Ivory Coast join the party on Tuesday when they play Portugal.
Ghana has opened the way for the African countries here and they will all take heart from this notable victory.
(Editing by Michael Holden)